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Standard Wetsuit Features
- Wetsuits are made from closed-cell neoprene with large, uniform bubbles that provide good insulating qualities. The neoprene is usually coated or lined with fabric or sprays to add strength and color, plus make it easier to slide into. Bare neoprene on the inside doesn’t slide on as easily, but does minimize water circulation within the suit.
- Wetsuit thickness is primary to warmth. Thicknesses start at 1 millimetre (mm) and progress up to 9 mm, with the most common being 3 mm (warm water), 5 mm (temperate water) and 7 mm (cold water) or a combination of these.
Style is also important to warmth and versatility.
- Shorties are one-piece suits that generally have short sleeves and thigh- or knee-length legs and cover your torso with around 3 mm of neoprene.
- Full body suits (jumpers or steamers) cover your arms and legs. They usually have either a long front or back zipper. They come with a variety of thicknesses for different water temperatures.
- Two-piece wet suits are popular because when you use the pieces together, you get double the insulation. You can also use the pieces separately, so you get two suits in one.
Optional and Desirable Features
- An attached hood prevents cold water from flowing in through your wetsuit collar as you swim.
- Wrist and ankle seals minimize water entry and circulation inside a wetsuit.
- Ankle and wrist zippers make getting into and out of your wetsuit easier.
- A spine pad fills in the channel made by your spine, which reduces water flow. Lumbar or kidney pads protect your lower back.
- Kneepads are common, but you can also get elbow pads. Many suits have special anti-abrasion material on the shoulders and in the seat.
- Preshaped arms and legs (bent knees and elbows) add comfort and prevent the neoprene from having to stretch so much as you move around, which reduces wear and tear.
- Pockets are good for carrying things like slates or keys. Pockets usually are placed on wetsuit thighs, calves or arms. Some suits also have interior key pockets.
How to Choose Your Wetsuit
- The dive professional at your PADI Dive Center or Resort will ask you where you plan to dive most to determine what style of wetsuit will work of you.
- Find the appropriate size and try on several suits.
- Take your time. Pulling a wetsuit on for the first time may take a little effort – so work your way through it without rushing. However, if it’s a real struggle, perhaps you need a larger size.
- Evaluate the fit. A wetsuit should be snug, but not overly tight. There should be no big gaps anywhere.
- Narrow down your choice by fit and comfort. Then, make the final decision based on style, color, optional features and personal preference. A wetsuit is an investment that should last for several years, so choose wisely.
- If you just can’t find a wetsuit that fits well, it’s possible to order a custom one that’s measured and made specifically for you. Ask your PADI dive shop staff about custom suits.
Take Care of Your Wetsuit
You need to rinse, dry and carefully store your wet suit after diving. It may occasionally need a good wash and there are special wetsuit soaps available for the job. Store your wetsuit on a wide plastic or wooden hanger to avoid creasing in the shoulders. If you must fold it, do so gently with the zipper on top, or as directed by the manufacturer